This year, Randstad is celebrating the 20th anniversary of our Workmonitor report. We’ve been reflecting on some of the key findings from over the years, and asking some of our leaders what they have learned too. Here are five lessons from 20 years of research for the business leaders of today.

businesses must always be ready for rapid change 

Optimism can switch to pessimism in one cycle of the Workmonitor report, as destabilizing events that companies can’t change but can only react to reshape the job market. 

In 2008, the global financial crisis slowed hiring and increased layoffs. A year later, confidence in finding a job was at all-time lows and a quarter of employees believed they would be fired within six months — a fear that did not decline until 2011. By then, though, a “war on talent” was emerging, and recruiting and retaining talent was harder than in previous years, as unsatisfied employees left companies that were unable to meet their needs. 

That financial crisis, Covid-19 and the current polycrisis all pushed stability up the agenda, and businesses that pivoted quickly and listened to their employees’ needs during and after these events were able to reduce staff attrition and had fewer skills shortages as a result. 

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What can businesses do to prepare for rapid and unexpected change?

“In these dynamic times, where nothing is more permanent than change, businesses that concentrate 'on managing the facts and controlling the controllables', can focus on delivering on the needs of their staff.
Companies that foster a culture in which their leadership listens carefully to the changing needs of their talent as well as their clients, can pivot with agility to turn global challenges into opportunities."

Herman Nijns
Randstad Chief Executive Southern Europe, UK and Latin America

providing opportunities is critical after periods of economic uncertainty 

Following times of economic uncertainty, workers seek new opportunities, be that in terms of development, work-life balance or new roles. Finding out what is driving the need to seek out external career opportunities is central to addressing employees’ needs.

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What has 20 years of the Randstad Workmonitor report taught us about employee behavior after economic disruption?

“Employees were worried in 2008 about losing their jobs, and it was the same during the early Covid lockdowns. Separately, they were also looking for a better work-life balance. So when the job market improved after the 2008 financial crisis, people left in droves and skills shortages started to emerge. It was the same during the post-Covid ‘Great Enlightenment’ — 56% of survey respondents were on a job hunt in 2021.”

Traci Fiatte
Randstad Chief Executive North America

Leaders should have frequent check-ins with staff, and develop internal opportunities for employees who have signalled a desire to seek new skills. Businesses can also offer coaching and retraining initiatives to upskill staff and plug gaps. This will also increase staff retention rates, reducing the emphasis on recruitment drives. 

catering for all colleagues is key to building a happy and equitable workforce 

Diversity was a priority for employees back in 2015, with 87% saying they value it in the workplace. And yet, by 2018, less than half reported their employer having a diversity/inclusion policy in place. Things have changed rapidly since then, and businesses today are increasingly aware of not only the ethical imperative to do what is right, but also the financial and competitive advantages that come with it.

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Why should businesses focus on creating an equitable and diverse work environment?

“Throughout the 20 years of Workmonitor, one constant is that successful companies are those with a diverse workforce. They often deliver more innovation and better financial performance. But not just this, a diverse workforce is important in talent attraction too, with job seekers evaluating companies and job offers on the strengths in this area. Creating an equitable and diverse environment is not a nice to have, but a must have. Companies that offer this environment and culture typically negotiate issues like skills gaps and attrition rates better; something most C-suite and boards desire.”

Michael Smith
Chief Executive Randstad Enterprise

technological advances can be both beneficial and challenging for workers 

Technology triggers an “always on” culture for some, but responding to workers’ requests for more training means technology is more likely to be embraced. 

In 2014, around three-quarters of survey respondents saw technology as an opportunity, but by 2016 nearly 70% felt that more training was needed to keep up with the digitalization of their jobs. In 2020, nearly 80% felt they had both the equipment and the technology needed to adapt to digitalization, and yet 40% still struggled to learn the required new skills for the digital age. To mitigate the uncertainty around new technology, businesses should be clear about the technological expectations on their teams, and help to facilitate any required training. 

Training and coaching can also be used to pivot skilled staff into new roles, or upskill staff to plug skills gaps.

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How can you help colleagues keep up with new technologies?

“New technologies can inspire many emotions in employees, from excitement to apprehension. Showing compassion in these situations is essential. And helping them to understand why new technologies are necessary, can set you apart in delivering exceptional services. By providing appropriate training you can help colleagues to embrace advancements.”

Dominique Hermans
Randstad Chief Executive Northern Europe

an increasing desire for flexibility can benefit employers too 

Workers have been signaling their desire for more flexibility for years. Generation Z started entering the workforce around 2014, and they expect more flexibility from employers than previous generations.

This trend of wanting more flexibility has only increased over time, but by 2018 employers were still resisting offering working from home or providing flexible working hours. 

woman working from her laptop at home in the kitchen
woman working from her laptop at home in the kitchen

By last year, happiness, wellbeing, work-life balance and flexibility were workers’ top priorities, with 56% of Gen Z and 55% of Millennials willing to quit their job if it was preventing them from enjoying life, compared with 38% of Baby Boomers. The impact of Covid, which sparked the “Great Enlightenment”, has meant companies are more flexible than ever, and this is mutually beneficial. 

looking ahead for the next trends

If 2023’s trends continue, stability and flexibility will be the two buzzwords over the coming years, as businesses with skills gaps look to attract the brightest and best with careers that cater to individual workers’ needs. 

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What trends do you expect to see emerge or crystallize in the coming years?

''Employers will treat their staff more than ever like customers, offering bespoke packages that empower staff to choose from options that suit them and provide the most benefits. But one thing that doesn’t appear to change is that by listening to and understanding your employees’ needs, leaders can always remain plugged in to what it is their teams want, and how to deliver it."

Kajetan Slonina
Randstad Chief Executive Asia Pacific
Launched in 2003, the Randstad Workmonitor now covers 34 markets in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas. The study conceptualizes and measures the gap between the reality and the wishes of the global workforce and tracks how this changes over time. 

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